'He Was A Person For All People'
Father Bill Diestch, retired priest of the Diocese of Evansville, served as homilist for the Nov. 19 Mass of Christian Burial for Father Kenneth H. Herr, also a retired priest of the diocese, who died on Nov. 12 after suffering a stroke the week of Oct 29.
“He was a person for all people,” Father Dietsch told a crowd that filled St. Boniface Church on Evansville west side to almost-overflowing. The sanctuary was totally full, and the choir loft was more than half full for the Mass. Bishop Joseph Siegel concelebrated the Mass with Bishop-Emeritus Gerald A. Gettelfinger and more than 45 priests of the diocese. Deacon Richard Preske assisted, and more than a dozen other deacons vested and participated.
Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen served as cantor, and Fathers Dave Martin and Jay Davidson served as lectors. Fathers Dietsch, Martin and Davidson are members of a diocesan priests’ support group that Father Herr was a member of. Other members who concelebrated included Father Frank Renner, Father Henry Kuykendall and Father John Boeglin. Father Lowell Will, who was a classmate of Father Herr’s at Collegium Canisianum Seminary and University in Innsbruck, Austria, also was a concelebrant.
Father Dietsch began by recalling a Native American saying along the lines of, “When you are born, the world rejoices and you cry. Live so that when you die, the world is crying and you are rejoicing.”
“I am here to share with you a banquet of tears, sorrow, pain and separation,” Father Diestch said. “I know that I speak for Bishop Siegel, Bishop Gettelfinger and my brother priests when I say that this hurts us all very much. However, I’m also here to share a banquet of hope, family, love and – without doubt – final rejoicing.”
Father Dietsch said he will remember Father Herr for how “kind, genteel and tender he was in dealing with people in his ministry.” He added that society often mistakes those traits as signs of weakness. “That is not true,” he said. “Father Kenny had the right touch. He did not overpower those he was called to serve.”
He remembered Father Herr as faithful and loyal, and said he spoke often about how much he looked forward to having his whole family visit at his cabin on Kentucky’s Lake Barkley. He talked about the 25-30 people who spoke at Father Herr’s Nov 18 Vigil Service at Pierre Funeral Home in Evansville, saying they had left him little more to share about his friend.
He concluded, “We say thank you and God bless you, and may God grant you eternal rest.”
Father Herr was born in Warrick County on Jan. 13, 1941, to the late Herbert and Leona (Welte) Herr. He attended St. Meinrad College in St. Meinrad and Collegium Canisianum. He was ordained to the priesthood on March 2, 1968, by Bishop Paul Rusch of Innsbruck, Austria, and celebrated his 50th jubilee as a priest this year. Father Dietsch noted that Father Herr had returned to the seminary this year to give a talk, which he titled “All is a Gift of God.”
Father Herr’s priestly assignments included Associate, St. Joseph Parish, Evansville, 1968, with additional duties as a teacher at Reitz Memorial High School, 1969; Associate, St. Agnes Parish, Evansville, and teacher, Rex Mundi High School, Evansville, 1970; Associate, St. Wendel Parish, St. Wendel, and teacher, Mater Dei High School, Evansville, 1973; full-time teacher, Mater Dei High School, with weekend pastoral service at St. Matthew Parish, Mount Vernon, and St. Philip Parish, Posey County, 1975; Administrator St. Rupert Parish, Red Brush, while continuing full-time teaching at Mater Dei, 1976; Pastor, Good Shepherd Parish, Evansville, 1983; full-time teacher and chaplain, Reitz Memorial High School, 1983; Sacramental Minister, St. John the Apostle Parish, Evansville, while continuing as chaplain at Reitz Memorial, 1996; service to St. John the Apostle concludes, continue as chaplain of Reitz Memorial, 1999; Pastor, St. Boniface Parish, Evansville, continue as chaplain of Reitz Memorial, 2004; service to Reitz Memorial concludes, continue as Pastor of St. Boniface, 2008; retired from full-time pastoral ministry, 2014; Administrator Pro Tempore, St. Mary Parish, Sullivan and St. Joan of Arc Parish, Jasonville, 2015; service to St. Mary and St. Joan of Arc concludes, 2016.
Father Herr’s other responsibilities included service as Assistant Commissioner, Youth Affairs Commission, 1970; Diocesan Chaplain of Boy Scouts, 1972; Priests’ Senate, 1979; and Diocesan Consultor, 1979. He was also very active in the Cursillo movement in the diocese.
Father Herr loved nature; fishing, hunting, spending time at Lake Barkley with his family and friends and snow skiing in his younger years. He also enjoyed playing the guitar and teaching others to play as well.
Survivors include three sisters: Bernice Tieken of Fishers, Ind., Benedictine Sister Donna Marie Herr of Evansville, and Donna (Leo) Anslinger of Haubstadt; one brother, Ray (Jane) Herr of St. Wendel; five nieces: Carole (Bill) Sehnert, Debbie (Scott) Stiffler, Janelle (Clint) Weatherholt, Tina (Brent) Lamey and Amanda (Mitch) Happe; three nephews: Todd (Michelle) Anslinger, Chris (Amy) Herr and Ryan (Becca) Anslinger; and 25 great-nieces and great-nephews.
In addition to his parents, Father Herr was preceded in death by a brother-in-law, David Tieken.
Interment at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Evansville followed the Mass of Christian Burial.